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tv   Al Jazeera World News  LINKTV  March 20, 2013 7:00pm-7:30pm PDT

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welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. as you can tell, we have guests for this, which we're certainly happy to have cynthia jones and patricia storm from diana's grove - and they're going to help us out in our quest to understand earth-centered spirituality, masculine/feminine qualities that are balanced, focus on the land, and a lot of other interesting things as we look at primal religion,
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and also we might say the recovery of some primal religious characteristics, but also we're still on myth and ritual. and there's probably no two people i would turn to, to try to get a better handle on the relationship between myth and ritual than cynthia and patricia. just some quick background, cynthia's been with us from the very beginning, as has patricia - they're in the first beliefs and believers teleclass. we'd gone out on our first video shoot and made a huge error in picking the amish to videotape first, and of course, they don't have their pictures taken. so we quickly moved to springfield, and cynthia had been recommended to me in one my students in my women and religion class as being an expert on reading turow and who had this very interesting nascent, new, what i would call spiritual movement going on in springfield. so i'd like to welcome you both, and why don't we just simply start out, cynthia and patricia, if you want to give us a little bit from your perspective, the background on the growth
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of your movement that now has taken form in diana's grove. >> calling it a movement's a bit intimidating, but - >> that's the sociologist in me. >>i think our background, basically, goes back to maybe the beginnings with turow, i'm not sure, but really, in looking at a way to connect with the earth and the elements and those aspects within ourselves, and trying to do that, where we were in springfield, which was on an asphalt parking lot, just didn't quite feel right, and i think we both kind of got called to the wild, where we could experience those elements a little more tangibly. >> so we moved on nothing but faith, belief, hope, and a lot of naivete. we moved from springfield, illinois, a corner lot in the middle of the city, to buying 102 acres in the ozarks, in shannon county,
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a very remote area, to dedicate land to both our community and to the sense of the goddess. but not only the goddess - in my terminology, truly, the goddess and the god - the sense of the ultimate feminine creative force, and the god is the sense of all that grows and greens and lives and is willing to die. so with earth-based religion, we wanted to move, to where we could actually offer earth along with it. >> i can testify to the difficulty of having this sort of spiritual instinct on a corner in a city, because for another teleclass, we went down to videotape a wonderful tape of them doing a full moon harvest festival, but you never knew if the fire department was going to come or the police were going to come or - >> and the trains go by. >> yeah, the trains go by, but it was still very beautifully done. you've brought up some pictures
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and we have some pictures. just so the folks can get a visual idea of this beautiful country and the setting and some of the ritual activity and just some of the symbolism, i know we have these pictures. why don't you begin to explain this dream that came to fruition and give the folks here a chance to get a visual feel for your sort of movement. [drums playing in background] >> we searched for land that would be both wild and welcoming. we searched for water and air, a place to be, and that search brought us to a piece of land that we call diana's grove. we wanted to offer a way to interface witnature, without the sacrifice of comfort,
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a way to be with other people, to house and welcome a community year-round, to celebrate the changing of the seasons, to welcome autumn, and see it turn into spring. we wanted to find a way to free the spirit in people. and among our visitors have been margot adler, beltane, dancing the maypole, calling the joy of life back as ribbons entwine, moving to ritual, through the setting sun. and old hay barn, converted into a community center. these were our dreams,
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and this is our land. a way to bring mirth and reverence together. a way to merge with the elements. a torch-lit ritual area. the call to dance by the fire. community. magic. [drum playing ends] >>now, that is a beautiful visual image of your dream, and we see it there. now, the one thing i've learned in my years of messing up other people's spiritual perceptions is for me not to do the talking about it. here in class, we've of course talked about some characteristics of primal religion
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with indigenous peoples, and those are generalizations about a land-centered and earth-centered spirituality. you've probably developed some questions right here. why don't we get some questions going back and forth, and then we'll have some discussion of myth and ritual. but anything you'd like to ask here. oh, susanna, we'll start with you. >> well, i am aware of a former catholic priest but an episcopal priest now - matthew fox who did a lot of things with - i think starhawk is in earth-centered spirituality, and matthew fox's philosophy was called creation spirituality. i wonder what the relationship is between - and i'd like to understand more about it; i just know that much. >> i'm not sure of exactly how matthew fox's theories interweave. i know his support of earth-based spirituality, and his reclaiming of that sacred. i'll just step slightly
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to the side with that and say i see no conflict. we all are earth-based. we all are earth-based. it is the planet we live on, and to begin to see and claim the earth as sacred, reclaim and recognize the earth as sacred, doesn't need to conflict with any other spiritual belief. in fact, ecologically, it's becoming essential to create a sustaining spiritual movement. just as earlier religious movements came up with laws 4,000, 6,000, 2,000 years ago, those mandates were to assure life - they were all life-sustaining. and today, we're needing to change a consciousness about what we value spiritually, to create a true life-sustaining paradigm, and i think that that is that call
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to earth-based spirituality. whether it comes through matthew fox in the catholic church, or through people who want to step out and use more radical terminology, it is our times, and a spirituality that is beginning to address the needs of these times. >> i think edward hays is another catholic priest who speaks comfortably in the same language. >> and thomas berry. >> yes. >> i also know that starhawk does - when she's come to our land - she's come to our land several times, three or four times - in the course of a week of working with starhawk, there is often time set aside where people can honor their - the spiritual religious traditions and rituals of other religions. she often has a jewish - >> seder. >> - seder during her time with us. so she does a lot of interweaving of that sort of thing,
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and we support that. >> i love that idea, and i think it may have even come up in class before about religion as survival. i mean, to understand your relationship with something as important as the earth on which you are definitely based, as you say, is indeed a survival mechanism. we don't often think of religion that way, but it's fundamental. oh, chris? yes. >> i actually had two questions. you speak of diana? >> yes. >> and you speak of magic. could you tell me some definitions for those two - or talk a little more about that? >> we named our place diana's grove because diana's the goddess of the moon, and i naively hoped that that name would not be frightening, or exclusive. i found that there is no name that i can call anything that doesn't raise some fear or concerns. but it was to honor and recognize the moon.
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now magic is often defined as the art of changing consciousness at will. and i think the piece of that statement that is most important to understand, it's the art of changing your own consciousness at will, not someone else's at your will. so it's that art. magic is being able to step into a self-created experience, and change the way you see the world through it. magic, to me, is stepping beyond the mundane - it is truly going into the realm of the archetypes. whether we call them gods and goddesses, or whether we call them what their name means - original patterns of possibility. to step out of my local self, into some expanded sense that lets me design my own life
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with the gods and the goddesses, the original patterns of being, and then perhaps step back into my own world, and truly find it different - that's magic. >> the term witch , to me, has a very evil connotation, which i think it does to many people, and i'm wondering why you refer to yourself as witches. it seems like that would make you be received in a more negative way. >> i actually don't refer to myself as a witch, for exactly that reason. i want what i believe to be heard, and witch was a word that was used to defame and give right to murder many, many people. but the history of that word is lost, and what now remains is a connotation that i don't feel it is most beneficial to me to spend my whole life
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explaining the word, when i would much rather spend my life explaining a relationship to fire, earth, air, water, and each other, that acknowledges the sacred in all, and the divinity in everything. >> i find it very ironic that we're going back to a sensibility that the american natives had that we wiped out, when we, who were told to be good stewards of the earth in all of our christian glory. but i can certainly see a reason for it - many reasons. >> well, hopefully, we didn't wipe it out completely, because it seems to be making a resurgence, some caring for this land that sustains us all. >> but we don't seem to be very good to the native americans even now. >> it's just never worked out. >> no, we still have a lot to learn. >> i just have - one of the difficulties there is we've heard -
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you speak so eloquently of transcendence or transformation through the ritual practices, it's just that the huge difference between transformation that sees your connectedness to the earth as part of the transforming process in earth-centered religions versus the transcendent being beyond - what's called ontological dualism - but beyond this realm, and that allowed for huge misunderstandings. but if it's a matter of survival, we see certainly why the recovery in so many different forms. i want to ask you something real quickly because we need to sort out some of these terms. we've had witch. how are you with pagan? >> i'm actually fine with witch and fine with pagan, but it is not a way i would introduce myself - certainly to my local community. >> what of the midwest witch camp - why would you say - call your - describe that? it's written down here - >> that's an event that is offered by starhawk on our land,
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and that is an event that we host at diana's grove. it is offered by starhawk and reclaiming collective. >> there are people - starhawk among them - who are committed to reclaiming the power behind the word witch. in terms of the wise one, of one who is able to change consciousness at will, who can do magic, change consciousness at will, and who can relate to the earth, to ecological issues and to feminist issues. and i believe that that's why she does use - call herself a witch, and uses that term, and a number of people who come to our events do. and i might, in some circumstances, but certainly not, just go out to the local grocery store and say, "hi, i'd like an apple and i'm a witch." i don't have time to deal with the consequences of that. >> and the midwest witch camp is held on our land in june. in july, we are very pleased
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to have the children from unity village coming to camp out. and last year, we even hosted a group of science teachers, and they were wonderful. >> do we have a question back there? >> okay. being a land or earth-centered spirituality that you all practice, have you seen anything occur with the land that would be significant? >> with our land? >> yes. >> we have - as part of some of the events - created some ecological practices on our land, the creation of a pond that takes care of runoff water and provides a space for fish and a beautiful spot. so it does both - it's a very permaculture type of work that's gone on there. we haven't had time to do enough gardening,
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but maybe one of these days. >> jamie, you've got a question? >> yes, our brochure lists a mention of priestess training for men and women. so that a man can be a priest, or a priestess? >> oh, i'm so glad you asked that. >>according to me, as far as i'm concerned, anyone can call themselves anything that speaks of them for themselves. when i used the word priestess , i don't use it to be gender-exclusive, or meaning just women. when we're offering like a training in earth-based spirituality and spiritual leadership or ministry, we've found that many of the men who come, if they were to go home and say they were in a priest training, they have a greater misconception to correct, and a greater assumption to step over or talk over. we find if they go home and say they were in a priestess training, everyone says,
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"oh, that's nice. i'll talk to you later." >> "that's interesting." yeah. >> that's interesting. and um-hmm. >> "how about them bulls!" >> so i put that word out as a way to talk about the type of training and work, and i see priestessing as anyone who's willing to be in service to their community and their deity - however they define that deity to be. >> and it wouldn't have as much of a negative connotation as the word witch , i suppose? >> no, i don't think it does - a bit confusing, but not so frightening. >> well, that's - barbara? >> you've mentioned someone named starhawk a few times. i'm not familiar. >> starhawk has written, the spiral dance. her two latest novels are, the fifth sacred thing , and walking to mercury . >> she's also written, dreaming the dark and truth or dare , which truth or dare probably is -
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the spiral dance is a basic primer in how to practice this particular spirituality, that a lot of people turn to. truth or dare is really a lot about group dynamics and interacting within groups, especially what she might call coven dynamics, but how do you work with a group of people in experiencing - expressing a spiritual practice. >> and starhawk has been a leading spokesperson, i think, for this movement, and garnered a lot of attention, which she certainly deserves, and i'm glad you asked, because you know, got to find out about these things. >> are you primarily providing a space for people to do their own thing, or are you also introducing a religion?
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>> we primarily offer spiritual work that interfaces with personal growth. we occasionally also host events for other groups that are of like mind or like intention. >> and to get to the point, though, is anyone excluded from your facility? >> and i really appreciate you asking, because what we truly stand for, what diana's grove stands for and what i want to stand for, is inclusion. inclusion isn't - it isn't as simple as just saying you're welcome to come. inclusion, to me, is really forming a spirituality that says not only are you welcome to come, but you are welcome to truly be a part of creating this spiritual experience. so we are working at creating
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a spirituality where all people are priestesses and priests, where all of us work together to create a spiritual experience, and that differs from hoping that the priestess or minister or teacher is inspiring enough to engage you. the engagement is yours; involvement comes from you and your desire. so that is our intention with diana's grove. >> is it successful? >> it's a lot of work, it's five years old, we're still existing, so for us, that is indeed success. it's not an easy notion. in a modern world, where we're really taught that you come into religion as an observer, and when we say, "no, we want you to come into this spiritual experience as a co-creator," so that's how i define inclusion.
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but we are dedicated to inclusion, diversity, great food, coffee, and real cream. >> but you don't have static values that must be observed or adhered to. >> organic. changing. but some static boundaries, and some of those are inclusion. >> so say if we have rules or guidelines, it is that others who come must agree to be with a diverse group, so that inclusion is one of the true values that we hold. >> so if anyone is excluded, it's because they choose not to become part of that - rather than you - >> we find that if we're really clear about our expectations, then people have the right to choose to be there or not be there. so they can choose
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to exclude themselves, but we have not chosen to exclude them. >> let me just jump in here real quick because we'll have time to come back to the questions, so hold them. i wanted to ask you something that's helpful for our class. i mean, all of this obviously is, but in terms of some of our themes, to get yet another perspective on this from people who are living it and doing it. now we've talked about myth and ritual, and i've heard you speak of both very, very eloquently. we've tried to make the case - and we've seen it in a number of religions so far this semester and the spirituality of the indigenous peoples, say native americans - but from your perspective, we think of the grand, beautiful symbolic stories guiding people in the ritual activity, which then brings them back into a transformative experience. does that fit with what you might do at diana's grove? >> i think myth is the heart of our ritual, and i believe that
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we are all mythologists, and part of our work is to create the myth that takes us where we choose to go. so i have difficulty sometimes with telling old stories in just the way they were originally told, for they're reflective of cultures that perhaps are not comfortable to me. but i also find that the old stories - if any story lives for 5,000 years, it's worth retelling. it's got some basic wonder to it. and my challenge is to step into those ancient stories, from all cultures, and take the piece, find the piece that truly empowers, and then invite you to live it. one of our teachers is jean houston, and part of what inspired me to study with her is she says,
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"don't pathologize your life. don't become a life story of your illnesses, but mythologize your life. tell your own story as hero/heroine of a great epic adventure." so step into the mythology, and live it as something both of this world and larger. so that's what myth is - it's the larger story. and mythology in no way indicates to me it's not true - it's just perhaps not fact; greater stories, with deeper meanings. and the beauty of mythology is it has meaning within meaning. and the meaning that a story has to me might be different than the meaning it has to chris, and we're both right. but we're both capable of taking that story and using it for our own growth, and sharing both the story
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and the nuance. so i find that myth is the center - it's the story that lives within the ritual. and the ritual is the form or the container that holds the story, and invites me to live it with a circle of people. >> another piece that jean houston gave us that we value greatly is a myth is something that's never happened but is always happening. and so that brings us, anyway, right into living the myths. and it is a challenge to bring some of the ancient myths into a kind of a vital living force in our lives, but it is one of the challenges that i think we're taking on. >> yeah, we've struck that chord here several times in class in other instances, that this must be lived. maybe there's no such thing as a myth that's not lived - it's mything. it shouldn't be a noun. it should be, "i'm mything you." yeah.
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it should be a verb - you do it. and i love that - the business about seeing your life as you're the exciting center of it, the heroine, the hero. and we talked about that again in class, about how do we lose our childhood joy, and i don't - well, probably the school system crunches it out of us. but how do we lose that joy where everything's so alive, so magical. and remythologizing or mythologizing is to go back into that childhood look at the wonders of the world. so that's neat. question? >> i'd like to ask the ladies how have they answered the profound question of why are you here on earth and how did you come to be. >>oh. is that a story! my favorite story about that is actually a story that frames the turow, and it starts with a sense of that great, infinite nothing -
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before individuation, before life - when we were all souls that gathered around some great distant cosmic fire, and looked down at life, looked down at life and looked down at people living, and looked down, yes, at the pain and the tragedy and the joy and the hope, and watched our brothers and sisters interact, so that others could learn, so that things could evolve, so greater stories could be told. and around that great fire, someone said, "who will go? who will go? who will leave this infinite nothing and everything, to take on shape, form, body, gender, polarities, and interact, so that we can all grow?" and i believe
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that all of you said, "i will. i'll do that." and so we did, and we forgot. but we live greater stories and to change. we are all key pieces of evolution, and only by living and interacting and struggling, and discovering our pain and discovering our healing can we change the world. so you are all heroes and heroines. and for your willingness to leap into life, we say, "blessed be!" >> annette? >> okay. i have a question - a practical question. if i, at 38 years old, a woman, working, going to school, raising a family, decided to get into my little car and drive to diana's grove, what would you want me to come away with? >> a sense of connection - to yourself,


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